What it means to “age well” has shifted: Consumers are no longer simply focused on longevity: They want to keep winning on the pickleball court, chase after PRs at the gym, and feel spry and independent traveling the world into their golden years. This desire to maintain a healthy lifestyle has made the active aging category a lucrative market: The analytics firm Future Market Insights projects that sales of supplements for older adults will reach $265 billion by 2032, growing at a CAGR of 6%.

“The population is aging at a rapid rate, and their health goals and concerns are evolving,” says Sébastien Bornet, VP Global Sales & Marketing, Horphag Research. “By 2030, 1 in 5 Americans is projected to be 65 years old and over—leading to many looking for ways to age healthy. Older adults have become much more proactive with their health, setting higher goals to live life on their terms. Now, market data shows these consumers want to enjoy the time they’ve earned with their families and friends, and participate in more activities, like travel. As their needs evolve, natural products and the way the industry communicates and connects with these consumers is changing, too.”

Boomers have driven demand in this category over the last decade, but the demographic is rapidly expanding to include younger generations. “Much of the credit for the current boom in the market can be given to Boomers as the last of that generation approaches retirement age. This was the generation that fought growing up and has fought growing old even harder,” says Nena Dockery, Scientific Affairs Manager, Stratum Nutrition. “Maintaining physical and mental health is paramount as they want to be able to do many of the activities they enjoyed in their youth, and even to expand those active endeavors. Most Boomers don’t want to hear the admonishment, ‘You are too old to…’”  

While Boomers strive to prolong vitality, younger consumers recognize the value of taking proactive measures to stave off premature aging.“Gen Xers are joining Boomers in driving this trend,” says Abdul Alkayali, Vice President, Sales and Marketing, Longevity by Nature. “A March 2023 Mintel survey of 700 U.S. consumers between the ages of 44-58 revealed that 70% of Gen Xers feel their body doesn't work as well as it used to. This trend is sparking demand for natural products that support the health of skin, joints, cognition, emotional well-being, and overall wellness.” 

Consumers seeking active aging support are often well-educated on the science of aging, so stock products that feature clinically backed ingredients, advises Angie Rimel, Marketing Communications Manager, North American, GELITA. “Today’s consumers are more informed than ever about the importance of exercise, proper nutrition, and supplementation—and, they recognize that what they do today affects their quality of life today and tomorrow. What consumers do in their 20s and 30s will affect how they age in their 40s and 50s. The work done in their 50s will pay off in their 70s. They strive to optimize mobility, health, and appearance at any and every age. This diverse group looking to maximize health benefits through good nutrition and supplementation will favor products with the greatest amount of scientific research and substantiation.” 

Alice Olufeso, Senior Product Manager Food & Health, Mibelle Group Biochemistry, agrees, and doubles down on the need to stock quality products. “Affirming the scientific effectiveness of supplements is a crucial aspect for consumers,” she stresses. “It's important to have commercial products on the market that demonstrate proven efficacy, as this can help consumers in making informed purchasing decisions. Ideally, the ingredients used in these supplements should be backed by clinical study data, which can significantly boost consumer confidence in the products.” 

Retailers would be wise to stock in-demand ingredients in a range of formats. “Capturing the attention of younger consumers, especially, hinges on format innovation,” says Antonio Vendrell, Marketing Director, Bioiberica. “No longer satisfied with conventional supplement formats like pills, these demographics are driving manufacturers to explore novel delivery formats. In Europe, for instance, chewables are favored by Baby Boomers, while gummies appeal more to Gen X and Millennials. Gen Z leans towards powdered formats, like powder sticks or drink mixes. There is also rising interest in functional foods and beverages—like coffees, teas, waters, juice and milk, as well as snacks and even desserts—markedly among health-conscious consumers. This is powered by a desire for accessible solutions that can be seamlessly integrated into increasingly hectic daily routines.”

5 keys to maximizing sales 

“Being fit at an advanced age is about maintaining muscle and staying mobile, but it also means taking measures to preserve mental health, digestive health and more,” explains Todd Pauli, Founder and Publisher, Move Nutrition Network. “This proactive approach to active aging means supplements and ingredients for cognitive health and digestive health are now a part of the active aging conversation, along with more traditional ingredients like protein and creatine. In Move Nutrition’s survey of dietitians, nutritionists and trainers, we see these newer ingredients being discussed often between the nutrition practitioners and their clients. For example, 61% of nutritionists surveyed are either ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ interested in cognitive health’s role in active nutrition, while 66% of dietitians are either ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ interested in gut/digestive health.” Keys to building a loyal customer base: 

Be positive: “The marketing of healthy aging products has shifted away from averting negatives to sustaining positives. Instead of focusing on the problems of aging—sore joints, failing memories, and wrinkled skin—more products are being positioned to maintain active, healthy and joyful lives as we age,” says Alkayali. “Focusing on the positives has greater appeal and reframes active aging to encompass a much larger, diverse population of consumers.” 

Create a hub: “Active aging is quite a broad category, and products tend to be spread throughout stores based on shoppers’ needs, such as pain management, immune support, sleep aids, and brain boosting,” notes Leslie Gallo, President, Artemis International. “Instead, a clearly defined ‘store within a store’ dedicated to healthy aging would make it much easier for consumers to see and consider all available products. Ideally this layout would mean greater discovery opportunities and lead to higher spending.” 

Lean into deals: “Customers aged 60+ value in-person customer service and cost-saving opportunities,” points out Kristen McPhee, M.S., Botanical and Nutrition Scientist, NOW. “Therefore, having attentive, knowledgeable staff and offering discounted bundles/sales for an active aging toolkit may help with marketing to this demographic. Try offering senior discounts. Women are outliving men, and women 60+ are frequently shopping for their household. Therefore, engaging women and establishing customer loyalty with them is particularly important.” 

Foster community. Offer customers the opportunity to interact and engage with your store and each other about their health concerns, says Jennifer Clancy, Global Marketing Director, Nutriventia. “Create a Facebook group about active aging to use as an information hub. Post interesting healthy aging study news from such sources as Science Daily, and industry sources for ingredient studies such as WholeFoods Magazine or other trusted sources. Use this page to create a ‘living library’ of compelling articles related to healthy aging, and you can link to any brand you carry that is relevant. Ask customers to post comments and questions, and encourage them to share their experiences about products, fitness regimens, etc., that worked for them to keep them enjoying a superior sense of wellbeing and improved physical abilities.” 

18 science-backed ingredients

Ashwagandha: As an adaptogen, ashwagandha root can support vitality and balanced well-being, says Clancy. “[The branded ingredient] Prolanza has been shown to provide long-acting biological action and high bioavailability with just a single daily dose of 300 mg.” 

NOW offers a standardized extract of Ashwagandha (450 mg), as well as Ashwagandha Stress Relief that features Lactium, a clinically tested milk protein derivative, says McPhee. “Similar to ashwagandha, Lactium has also been clinically evaluated for its ability to help relieve the psychological and physiological effects of stress from everyday life, making it the perfect complimentary ingredient.” 

Boswellia: This extract has anti-inflammatory effects that can reduce joint aches and pains, notes Ahmed Khan, Vice President, Sales & Marketing, Sabinsa Corporation, which offers the branded ingredient Bowellian Super. “Boswellin Super supports healthy joints, healthy levels of inflammation, and joint mobility. Boswellin Super helps manage stiffness associated with exercise, and improves joint function.” 

Black currant extract: This antioxidant-rich fruit has been shown to protect vision, which is critical to maintaining mobility and independence, notes Gallo. “A particular black currant extract called CurrantCraft was the subject of a recent human clinical study (Hawkins et al, pending publication). The study concluded that CurrantCraft supplementation significantly improved blurry vision and had additional impacts on eye strain and dry eye in adults after prolonged screen use. This finding is incredibly relevant for today’s vision-support needs.” 

Chicory root fiber: A prebiotic fiber branded as Orafti inulin can help balance blood sugar, reduce blood LDL cholesterol levels, and support the gut microbiome by nourishing beneficial microorganisms, such as Bifidobacteria, which in turn improve digestive health, wellbeing, and immune health, notes Denisse Colindres, Manager Nutrition Communication, North America, BENEO.

Also, a new chicory ingredient shows promise for bone health. “OraftiSynergy, a product composed of 50% shorter chain fructans from chicory root and 50% longer chains, increases the bioavailability of calcium in the diet,” says Colindres. “This is related to an extension of the absorption capacity due to prebiotic fermentation activities by beneficial microorganisms in the large intestine. This presents a new, additional place of absorption and a new additional absorption mechanism independent of vitamin D, enabling calcium to reach bones to strengthen higher bone mineral density.” 

Collagen: Products with collagen are among the fastest growing in the supplement market, says Brian Garrett, Senior Director DFS and Health Ingredients, Lonza Capsules & Health Ingredients. That said, not all collagen is the same. “Collagen exists in various types, each with its own set of characteristics, however type II is the major protein in cartilage—the connective tissue that protects our bones and joints. This makes it a potent nutrient for mobility and joint health,” notes Garrett, who says Lonza’s UC-II collagen has a unique mechanism of action that makes more bioavailable. “A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study investigated the effects of a 40 mg daily dose of UC-II undenatured type II collagen in 96 active, healthy male and female subjects aged 20 to 55 years old. Results found that UC-II undenatured type II collagen improved joint flexibility by three degrees—15 times more effectively—than the placebo. This correlates to joints feeling 10 years younger.” 

Bioberica also offers a native type II collagen branded as Collavant. And Gelita’s bioactive collagen peptides (branded BCP) offer well-characterized peptide profiles that target and stimulate metabolism of collagen-producing cells.

It’s worth exploring a combo of collagen types, adds Alkayali. “Our research shows that the combination of collagen types I, II, V and X is optimal for maximizing bone, cartilage, and tissue support. We created TendoGuard from avian sternum and eggshell membrane collagen peptides to help consumers of all ages maximize their joint efforts to maintain and improve healthy joint function. Clinical research shows TendoGuard significantly improved the range of motion, general pain and muscle strength of 78% subjects who consumed 750 mg daily for 60 days. The observational study was conducted to evaluate the efficacy of TendoGuard in older adults experiencing joint discomfort and diminished mobility.”

Curcumin: This bioactive compound found in turmeric is well-studied for its anti-inflammatory effects. For instance, the branded ingredient HydroCurc is a highly bioavailable curcumin clinically shown to aid in joint health, immune health, heart health, exercise recovery, and cognitive health, notes McNamara. 

Another science-backed ingredient is turmXtra 60N, which contains 150 mg curcuminoids, says Clancy. “TurmXtra supports joint and muscle function and preservation. TurmXtra 60N is unique among other turmeric ingredients in that this water-dispersible extract can provide significant reductions in muscle-ache intensity within 12 hours post-exercise when compared to other turmeric and curcumin supplements.” 

Curcumin can also support a healthy metabolism, adds Khan. Sabinsa offers CurCousin, containing the curcumin compound Calebin A. “CurCousin supports healthy lipid level balance and  healthy body weight by inhibiting fat cells, among other benefits,” says Khan. “The product is clinically studied at a dosage of 25 mg twice a day.” 

Eggshell membrane: Branded as NEM, it can help decrease the gradual breakdown of cartilage tissue surrounding joints, and maintain healthy muscles, tendons, and ligaments surrounding the joints, says Dockery. “The portfolio of studies on NEM includes clinical trials that implement both objective and subjective measures of cartilage health and exercise-induced degradation along with cell culture and animal studies, providing an extra level of support for its effectiveness that is unmatched by virtually any other joint support ingredient.”

Elderberry: This superfruit is known for its immune-boosting effects, and it also may help slow cellular aging. “Sirtuin 6 is a protein that naturally declines as we age, but it plays a crucial role in cellular health and longevity,” says Melanie Bush, VP of Science & Research, Artemis International. “A recent study showed that elderberry extract ElderCraft was able to activate Sirtuin 6 expression in vitro.” 

French maritime pine bark extract: Pycnogenol, a proprietary extract of the French maritime pine tree, contains a combination of procyanidins, bioflavonoids, and phenolic acids that offer protection against premature aging. Bornet says, “The extract has four basic health properties—it’s a powerful antioxidant, acts as a natural anti-inflammatory, promotes collagen and hyaluronic acid generation in the skin, and supports endothelial nitric oxide production which helps relaxation of arteries, consequently improving blood flow.” Bornet says supplementing with Pycnogenol is clinically shown to improve key heart health markers, reduce joint discomfort, improve attention span, memory and overall cognitive function, and protect against age-related muscle loss. Plus, Pycnogenol has been shown to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and increase hair density by 30% in menopausal women.  

Geranylgeraniol (GG): GG is an endogenous nutrient in the body that declines with age. It is essential for skeletal muscle protein synthesis and the production of testosterone, progesterone, CoQ10, and MK4. By replenishing natural levels of GG, GG-Gold from American River Nutrition can help reduce the risk of age-related physical decline, maintain structural support for the body, and promote healthy muscle strength and function. GG was the topic of a Vitamin Connection column in which Richard Passwater, Ph.D., examined GG's health benefits with Barrie Tan, Ph.D.

Glutathione: Known as the body’s master antioxidant, glutathione works to neutralize free radicals and reduce oxidative stress, a type of cell damage that can harm DNA, proteins, and other vital molecules. The body’s ability to produce glutathione declines with age, but supplementing with this compound (available as the branded ingredient Setria) can help support detoxification, immune health, and more, notes Maria Stanieich, Marketing Manager, Kyowa Hakko USA. “Setria glutathione is the standout glutathione, supporting your body’s primary defense while fighting off oxidative stress. Supplementing with Setria may help support your body’s primary defense system. It also helps support the body’s detoxification process by helping to eliminate common toxins we encounter daily. Setria also can support immune health, promote healthy aging, and help with skin health.” 

Gynostemma pentaphyllum: This adaptogen (branded as ActivAMP) works to switch on an enzyme involved in metabolism and energy, says McNamara. “ActivAMP has been clinically researched to aid in metabolic health and weight management and, most recently, improve performance by 4%.” 

Hyaluronic acid (HA): As a supplement, HA can help keep joints supple and lubricated. Bioiberica offers HA plus polysaccharides and collagen in its branded ingredient Mobilee, which has been shown to support joint and muscle health at 80 mg/day due to the synergistic effect of its three components, says Vendrell. “Not only is this dosage notably lower than what is needed for pure HA to be effective in the same formulation, but Mobilee also demonstrates superior efficacy—including increasing the synthesis of endogenous HA by 200-fold, much higher than pure HA can.” 

Palmitoylethanolamide (PEA): Produced naturally in the body in response to injury and stress, PEA is found in lipid extracts of egg yolk, peanuts, and soybeans. “PEA is beneficial for joint health, immune health, exercise recovery, sleep, and mood,” says McNamara (Gencor offers the branded PEA ingredients Levagen and Levagen+). “People need to supplement with PEA because as we age and during stress, inflammation, or pain, PEA decreases. Exogenous supplementation is necessary to replenish depleted levels in the body.” 

Plasmalogens: “As one ages, the need to improve cognitive function increases, especially if one is to remain active. One cause of a decline in memory and cognitive function can be the loss of plasmalogens in the brain,” says Hank Cheatham, Vice President, Daiwa Health Development. Supplementing with plasmalogens such as Hokkaido Scallop Oil Plasmalogen (branded as HSOP) can help support cognitive function and protect against memory loss. 

Polyphenols: The branded ingredient Telos95 from Longevity by Nature is a blend of concentrated natural polyphenols sourced from grapevine and organic olive leaves through a proprietary extraction method, says Alkayali. These antioxidants fight free radicals to preserve telomere length and maintain cellular health. In a randomized, peer-reviewed clinical trial of 50 healthy volunteers, blood samples taken before and after the study period were analyzed to determine average telomere length (ATL). TeloYear or cellular ages were assigned based on a comparison of ATLs of individuals the same age and gender. Subjects taking one 95-mg capsule of Telos95 reduced their TeloYear Age by an average of 7.43 years. Their ATL showed a baseline measurement of 0.85 increased to 0.95 by the end of the study. Volunteers taking two capsules daily decreased their TeloYears by 8.52 years and increased their ATL to 0.94 from 0.82.

Rice bran: Branded as PeakImmune4, Rice Bran Arabinoxylan Compound (RBAC) increases natural killer (NK) cell activity, and enhances B and T cell count in individuals with compromised immune systems. This can help stave off illness and may slow the aging process, says Cheatham. RBAC is a proven immune modulator (an agent possessing a broad range of activity dependent upon the existing state of health and immunity in the individual host). He explains, “In clinical research, RBAC is shown not to over-stimulate the immune system, but to hold it at the optimal level. Additionally, in scientific research, RBAC is shown to be safe to use even if one is suffering from an autoimmune disorder.” 

SAMe: This compound, found in virtually every tissue and fluid in the body, is required in countless biochemical reactions. “Since SAMe occurs in practically all living cells, scientists believe that it has long assisted cells in defending against destructive influences,” says Lorena Carboni, Scientific Communications Specialist, Gnosis by Lesaffre. She says SAMe (available as Adonat Premium SAMe) combats cellular aging by promoting methylation, which is necessary for the synthesis of nucleic acids (DNA and RNA), proteins, phospholipids, and neurotransmitters. “The body’s ability to appropriately methylate may decline with age, leading to increased risk of many chronic age-related diseases...SAMe’s critical methylation effect can block disease and slow certain aging processes.” SAMe also supports production of the body master antioxidant glutathione. Carboni says, “Glutathione is crucial for liver function. The liver is the organ most responsible for purifying toxins in the body.” WF

Master the Active Aging Market!

At the Naturally Informed conference Active Aging: Mastering the Market, held in December 2023, experts discussed the market and trending subcategories. Cognitive health, bone and joint support, libido, and more were covered, with a look at the latest science, consumer market trends, and business strategies. All sessions are available to view on demand at no cost. And save your spot for the 2024 edition, coming in December. Go to NaturallyInformed.net to save your spot today.